PM apologizes for deadly train crash, promises to fix railways
A passenger train with 350 people on board, most of them university students, collided with a cargo train in central Greece on February 28th in the country’s deadliest rail disaster.
“I want to reiterate a public apology on behalf of those who ruled the country over the years, and mainly personally,” Mitsotakis said during a cabinet meeting. “I assume responsibility.”
The crash has stirred public outrage and protests against a political system which has repeatedly ignored calls by railway unions to install and maintain digital safety systems and hire more staff.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands rallied outside Parliament in Athens, the northern city of Thessaloniki and other cities across Greece in the largest street demonstrations the conservative government has faced since being elected in 2019.
The government, which was initially planning to call elections in coming weeks as its term ends in July, has blamed the crash mainly on human error but has also acknowledged deficiencies mainly due to underinvestment and neglect – a legacy of Greece’s debt crisis.
Mitsotakis outlined his government’s priorities on Thursday, which included a transparent investigation into the causes of the crash and compensating the families of victims.
He said that more than 270 million euros would be invested in railway reform and pledged to hire more staff and improve safety by installing digital control systems along the railway network by the end of August.
“We are together in this trial,” Mitsotakis said, adding that young people and their parents had “every right to be angry.” But the leader also called on protesters to not allow anger to split society.
“It is important to give room to sorrow and anger. But we should not allow it to become a spark that will cause divisions,” he said, just before another planned rally by university students in Athens. [Reuters]